Yesterday, our host family took us to an interesting historical structure from earlier eras. In ages past, the idea of housing and keeping pigeons was (at least in France) a right that was given to nobles by the King based upon the land that they owned. This pigeon house (dovecote) would produce a number of resources that were highly prized in those times... principal among these were the fertiliser that would be harvested from the poop of the pigeons! In addition to the highly prized poop, there would also be eggs and meat from the pigeons as well. Alternate uses for the poop would also include the basis for gunpowder and ingredients required for the tanning of leather. So, the profession of the "pigeoneer" was a highly respected and essential profession... and the right to own and house the pigeons was a noble privilege granted from the crown.
The pigeon house has a design that helps keep out the rats (the ridge in the middle) and large windows to allow the access of the pigeons. These windows would be closed during the planting season to protect the fledgling crops...
A single narrow entrance for humans (the pigeon keeper) is the only ground level access. These days, there is no door on the entrance... but one would assume that there would be a door to keep the rats out at the ground level... or the cats.... This particular dovecote would house 700-1000 pigeons.
These days, the dovecote is used as an oversized garden shed. However, if you look closely at the structure of the wall... you see the narrow holes that would house the pigeons. If you stick your hand in, you discover that the holes widen out the further in you go, so that they would have space for 2 or 3 pigeons inside! The wall is a double wall, with the interior wall having the entrances for the pigeons, and the space in between being for the housing of the pigeons.
In the past, there would be a rotating ladder mechanism in the middle... which the pigeoneer would use to harvest the eggs and poop from the holes.... and occasionally the pigeons themselves for the meat.
The manor house that the pigeon house belonged to still stands in the town of La Tours Blanche (The White Tower?) in the Dordogne region of France. Originally, it housed the noble of the region... however, these days... it serves as the Town Hall for the region. Interestingly, weddings are conducted in the courtyard pictured above... with the crowd and betrothed down in the ground level, and the celebrant in the windows above!
The back of the manor house as seen from the dovecote (pigeon house).
The dovecote is part of an historical walking path in the region. It's a great look into the resource harvesting of pre-industrial cultures. The dovecote existed in many forms throughout Europe and the Middle East, and was an essential part of agriculture (due to the fertiliser production) until the Haber process was perfected in the Industrial Age.
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